From The Daily Beast:
He delivered a halting defense of Obamacare before the Supreme Court, and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli did it again Wednesday, appearing unfocused in arguing against Arizona’s immigration law, says Terry Greene Sterling.
Verrilli, on the other hand, was sucker-punched even before he started his argument by Chief Justice John Roberts, who asked if the case was related to ethnic profiling.
No, Verrilli said.
Verrilli allowed himself to wander under questioning from conservative justices, and at one point the gentlemanly Justice Stephen Breyer said, “Let’s get focused.”
Walking out of the courthouse, a grim-faced Danny Ortega, chairman of the National Council of La Raza and a Phoenix lawyer, said the court may well let the heart of SB 1070 take effect.
The Supreme Court signaled Wednesday that it might uphold a key element of Arizona’s immigration law, as justices across the board suggested the state has a serious problem on its hands and should have some level of sovereignty to address illegal immigration.
The justices appeared ready to allow a provision requiring police officers to check the immigration status of people they think are in the U.S. illegally.
The justices strongly suggested Wednesday they are not buying the Obama administration’s argument that the state exceeded its authority, with Chief Justice John Roberts at one point saying he doesn’t think the federal government even wants to know how many illegal immigrants are in the country.
“You can see it’s not selling very well,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped draft the law, voiced optimism in Arizona’s chances.
“This was a very good day for Arizona in the Supreme Court today,” he told Fox News. “The U.S. Justice Department was on the ropes.”
Verrilli, who is arguing on behalf of the government, said in his brief that the Executive Branch has the power to enforce immigration policy.
Democrats on Capitol Hill this week were already scrambling to prepare for the possibility that the high court upholds the immigration law. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced a plan to introduce a bill that would effectively nullify Arizona’s law — though it would stand virtually no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House.
In his fervent defense Wednesday of Arizona’s right to crack down on illegal immigration, Justice Antonin Scalia likened immigration enforcement to crackdowns on bank robbers.
“What’s wrong about the states enforcing federal law?” Scalia said during his aggressive questioning of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. “There is a federal law against robbing federal banks. Can it be made a state crime to rob those banks? I think it is.”
“But does the attorney general come in and say, you know, we might really only want to go after the professional bank robbers?” Scalia said. “If it’s just an amateur bank robber, you know, we’re going to let it go. And the state’s interfering with our whole scheme here because it’s prosecuting all these bank robbers.”
The line drew uncomfortable laughter and some gasps in the courtroom. It’s the sort of analogy that makes it easier for immigrant-rights advocates to accuse their opponents of lacking humanity. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants, advocates often have to point out, are not criminals and are merely trying to make a living for themselves and their families.
The justice’s hostility toward critics of the Arizona law was on full display Wednesday.
When Verrilli argued that international concerns factor into the federal government’s supremacy over immigration policy, Scalia angrily interrupted, “So we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico. Is that what you’re saying?”
From Washington Times:
Supreme Court justices took a dim view of the Obama administration’s claim that it can stop Arizona from enforcing immigration laws, telling government lawyers during oral argument Wednesday that the state appears to want to push federal officials, not conflict with them.
The Obama administration has sued, arguing that those provisions conflict with the federal government’s role in setting immigration policy, but justices on both sides of the aisle struggled to understand that argument.
“I’m terribly confused by your answer,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who went on to say that the federal government can always decline to pick up illegal immigrants when Arizona officials call.
Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the measure into law, was present for the arguments, as were members of Congress who follow the immigration issue: Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, the top Democrat on the House immigration subcommittee, and Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who has fought for an immigration crackdown.
– featured image: Photo By MOLLY RILEY/Reuters